Please read this whole review as things improve DRASTICALLY after the first two paragraphs :-)
My husband and I came here for our honeymoon May 23, 2011 - May 30, 2011. FYI, we are 33 and 36 years old. After some travel drama (Montego Bay air traffic controllers went on strike causing Delta to cancel all flights -- fortunately they reinstated the flights about 6 hours later), we landed in Jamaica completely exhausted and ready to get to our final destination ASAP. We made it through customs and got our luggage with no problems and were shown to the "Couples" lounge in the airport (similiar lounges exist for Sandals, The Ritz, etc.). They had kegs of Red Stripe and a bar (no food though and we were STARVED!). Be forewarned, the lounge is pretty shabby -- the bathrooms are disgusting and it is in bad need of paint job and some updated furniture. We waited for about 45 min while they gathered enough people to fill a shuttle (the people staffing the lounge and the drivers are definitely on island time and we could not get a straight answer as to when we would be leaving the airport for the resort). Finally, we were loaded in and started on the TWO HOUR drive to Tower Isle. That part was miserable mostly due to our initial delays -- we did not get to Couples until 9:30 pm.
The lobby of the resort is very nice -- open air lobby, decorated like a 50's Hollywood lounge (turquoise walls, black and white striped couches). They handed us a glass of champagne and we checked into our rooms (this was a very effecient process). I thought that we had booked a deluxe room, but when we got to our room, I realized that MY definition of deluxe was different than Couples definition. The room was clean, but very small, the bathroom was teeny tiny (both my husband and I lived in Manhattan for years - 7 for me and 3 for him - so we are very accustomed to small spaces so for us to say it was small -- it had to be MICRO). The shower had no lip so when the water was on, it flooded the whole bathroom. It was late, and we just called it a night and went to bed. Because our room was at the top of the steps right above the open air lobby, it was very loud that first night.
OK - HERE IS WHERE IT GETS A LOOOOOOOOOT BETTER! The next day, we inquired about moving to a room that was further down the hall and away from the steps. They were super accomodating and told us they would move us around 1 pm that day. We went on our way to enjoy the day. Around 1, we checked back in with the desk and they said our new room was ready and that a bellman (his name was Kirk and he was FABULOUS!) would be right up to get our things. He grabbed our stuff and told us he would be right back with our new room key. He disappeared for 20 minutes and then came back up with a grin and said that the front desk (fabulous woman by the name of Annjulian) had "hooked us up." Boy was he right! We ended up being upgraded to a HUGE suite with a separate sitting room, fully stocked mini bar, huge balcony and a bathroom that was larger than one of my NYC apartments. Even though the resort claims to be "strictly tip free," needless to say we slipped some money to both of our upgraders (Kirk had a hand in it too). From that point on, I have ZERO complaints with Couples Tower Isle.
The staff could not have been more friendly and nice. Seriously, every single one of them was nicer than the next. The property was maintained beautifully and the food was exceptional! Because it was all inclusive, we were prepared for average food -- it was anything but that with the menus changing everyday (except for breakfast which was pretty standard). The 2 places that required reservations were worth the trouble of finding a reso -- Bayside was Thai food and was probably the least gourmet but the gorgeous setting made up for it. 8 Rivers was awesome and the fanciest place on the resort. The buffet for lunch and dinner were all awesome and not at all "cruise/all inclusive" type food.
The bars were all pretty good -- alcohol selections were OK. We are both beer drinkers and I am also a wine drinker. The beer selection sucked --- Red Stripe, Miller Lite (YUCK!), Carib. You can also get Guinnes from the martini bar. Wine selection was non existant unless you wanted to purchase a better bottle -- that was disappointing). The standard champagne is not good at all, but if you ask for the other selection (name escapes me), it is much less sweet. Hard liquor selections were better than a standard open bar, but we do not drink that much hard alcohol.
The activities were all MUCH better than expected (except for the snorkeling which was a waste of time). We highly recommend the discover scuba certification if you are not already a certified diver. Our instructor, Taren aka Tiger, was amazing and patient. In all, you are in a class and in the pool for almost 3 hours so some people might be irritated that you waste half the day before you even go out for a dive (the dive lasted 28 min). We totally loved it so much, that they allowed us to go on another dive with them (minus the 3 hour instruction) the next afternoon. Collin (the skinny dive instructor with the crazy colored wet suit) is fabulous. You can tell they all really love their jobs and I felt very comfortable with them during classes and especially once we were in open water.
The trip to Dunn's River was also a lot of fun. Be forewarned that the guides taking people up the falls A) pretty much DEMAND tips so be prepared with singles and B) do not discourage ANYONE from climbing these fairly treacherous rocks -- we had a very overweight middle aged couple with their special needs adult daughter in the group ahead of us. Clearly there is no discretion when taking people's money to climb the falls. You are dependant upon the people in front of and behind you to climb up the rocks so pay attention who you are in line with! :-). In all, it was worth it and I would do it again. After you complete the climb, you are forced to walk through a flea market of sorts where people selling hideous painted Bob Marley masks and t shirts literally grab you and pull you into their shops. They make you feel like you have to buy from them (we did not buy anything and got yelled at quite harshly). This experience discouraged us from taking the resort sponsored "shopping trip."
The horse back riding was also well worth it (again, bring some money for tipping your driver, your guide, the guy taking pics, and the crazy coconut tree climbing guy -- you will know who I am talking about). We were on the horses for little over an hour -- it was hot and you are in the sun a lot but we did the early am ride (started at 9 am) so it wasn't too bad.
The catamaran/booze cruise was also a good time. They serve a VERY strong rum punch the whole time and dock the boat in a cove where you can jump off and swim around. Fun time especially if you go with other people you meet at the resort.
I cannot comment of the nightlife at the resort because as hard as we tried, we could not stay up past 10 pm!! We were up early every morning so between the day drinking, sun, swimming, etc. we pretty much called it a night early. There is a wide ago range of the guests and it was apparent the ones who stayed up for the late night activities (think early -mid 20's).
If you are there for your honeymoon, you get a free 30 min couples massage -- we upgraded to a 60 min massage and it cost $110 total. They totally rip you off on the prices, but the massage was more than decent and the spa is nice. We did it on the morning of our last day and relaxed the entire day after that. Make sure you dont book it the day you go horseback riding or climb the falls as you kind of ruin the whole point of the relaxation!
In all, it was a great experience but it would not have been the same if our room had not been upgraded. It is well worth it to pay a little extra money for the suite -- fortunately, we did not have to pay for the upgrade but if I ever went back, there would be no question as to what class of room we would book.
If you are staying in the main building (#1), ask for a room away from the steps. We heard building 3 was the most private, but it has a partially restricted view of the beach and I am not sure if there are suite rooms in that building.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Playground to Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s, glamorous Couples Tower Isle exudes a chic sophistication perfectly balanced by a relaxed Caribbean sensuality. Perched on the lush terrain of Ocho Rios, Jamaica—the resort seduces with breathtaking sea views, a wide sandy beach and century-old palm trees. Discover the joys of snorkeling among the reefs, windsurfing on the waves, or sailing into the sunset on a catamaran, rum punch in hand. Intricate blue tile work and jade chaise lounges offset the striking white retro architecture. Luxurious rooms boast private ocean-breeze balconies. Whether being pampered in the Zen-inspired spa—recognized as "Best in the Caribbean" by Travel+Leisure—sipping cocktails at the piano bar or indulging in an exquisite meal alfresco, Couples Tower Isle creates countless intimate moments that inspire you to return again and again. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Couples Tower Isle Hotel Ocho Rios
- Couples Hotel Ocho Rios
- Couples Ocho Rios
- Couples Hotel Isle
- Couples Ochos Rios
- Ochos Rios
- Couples Tower Isle Jamaica/Ocho Rios